Category Archives: Cooking

Poor Man’s Pesto

Pesto was a staple in our household growing up. I had a love for garlic at an early age and there was no better dinner than linguine with pesto.

My dad is a pesto purist, as you can read on his verbose website entry on the matter. I followed in my dad’s footsteps – basil and pine nuts was the ONLY way – until I started paying my own bills and realizing how expensive pine nuts and real Parmesan cheese are.

Years ago I started using pistachios instead of pine nuts for my basil-only pesto recipe, which I had adapted from Marcella Hazan’s blender pesto. I really can’t tell the difference. I realized last year that I’m not alone with this thought. Maya Wilson of Alaska From Scratch also uses pistachios instead of pine nuts for her pesto recipe.

Then last summer, Julia O’Malley invited me over to test out an Alaska greens super pesto. It was then that I realized you don’t have to stick to only fresh basil to achieve that delicious pesto-y flavor.

Enter the giant Costco bag of spinach. You know the one – it’s like $4 and you tell yourself you’re totally going to get through the whole thing before it gets slimy? My husband fell for it again this week and bought the gigantic bag of greens and it’s my mission to get through it before it goes bad.

Last night I decided to try pesto using what I had on hand: a giant bag of spinach, pistachios, pecorino Romano cheese, lemon and the other usual pesto cast of characters. What I discovered is basil doesn’t matter a bit to me when it comes to pesto. It’s the garlic, cheese and olive oil that my tastebuds crave.

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

This recipe was everything I wanted and so much cheaper than the recipe I grew up with. Adding melted butter makes up for the oils in the pine nuts that the pistachios lack. And including fresh lemon juice brightens up the pesto in a similar way the basil does.

I eyeballed all the ingredients, but this is a good place to start. Follow your tastebuds. If the mixture is too thick, add more olive oil. If it doesn’t have enough bite, add some more lemon juice or salt. If it’s too thin, add more cheese. You could also reserve some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Spinach and Pistachio Pesto – a less expensive way to enjoy pesto bliss

Enough sauce for 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil (plus more if needed)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 big handfuls fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (about 3.5-4 oz.)
  • 3/4 cups pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

In a small food processor or blender, purée the pistachios, olive oil and garlic until smooth. Add in the spinach and blend until everything is evenly blended – about 20-30 seconds.

Place contents into a medium mixing bowl and add the cheese, lemon juice and butter. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. If pesto is too thin, add more cheese. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil. Serve with long thin pasta cooked al dente.

Spinach and pistachio pesto - a less expensive recipe with the same great flavor | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Pasta and shrimp in a paprika chili sauce

A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe for a Spanish-style shrimp appetizer. I am pretty sure I’ve eaten my weight in shrimp since posting it.  One of my favorite parts of the dish is sopping up the flavorful garlic paprika oil with a piece of rustic bread.

The other day I didn’t have any crusty bread, so I decided to toss some linguine in the leftover oil. It was fantastic.

So I turned my tasty app into an entree. This is a wonderful way to impress your guests with a colorful, flavorful dish that takes very little time to make. It’s really easy! I eyeballed the oil and the pasta so these are approximate measurements. Feel free to play around with it!

Pasta and shrimp in a paprika chili sauce | A simple dinner recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Pasta with shrimp in a paprika chili sauce

Serves 3-4

Pasta and shrimp in a paprika chili sauce | A simple dinner recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 dried guajillo or New Mexico chilis
  • 16 raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika (Hungarian will do)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Splash of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 pound pasta

Pasta and shrimp in a paprika chili sauce | A simple dinner recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the dried pepper into rings and place in a small bowl. When water is boiling, remove 1/2 cup and pour over the dried peppers. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside. While pasta is boiling, toss the shrimp with the paprika and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium. Add the garlic and softened chili and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Add the shrimp and any remaining paprika. Turn down heat if needs be to avoid burning the garlic. Cook until shrimp is pink, turning halfway, about 4 minutes.

Salt to taste. Add a glug of white wine and let it bubble away for a few seconds. Add the pasta and toss until thoroughly coated. Sprinkle in the parsley.

Pasta and shrimp in a paprika chili sauce | A simple dinner recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Delicious Homemade Pad Thai

I am trying to work through my pantry. This evening I called out ingredients to my family and when I got to “rice stick noodle” my husband suggested Pad Thai. In my experience, Pad Thai at home is this sticky, icky mess that doesn’t remotely resemble the Thai restaurant staple.

I decided to give it another go. I started researching recipes on Pinterest. One claimed to taste just like the real thing but contained ketchup. Another suggested peanut butter, and I finally decided on the most un-Pinteresty looking recipe from SouvenirFinder.com. Heck yes I want my pad Thai to taste like Bankok street food!

The first go around I didn’t have tamarind concentrate. So I improvised and used peanut butter instead. I was delightfully surprised. I didn’t end up with a sticky ball of noodles that was overly sweet. It was a balanced dish with lots of flavor. Second time around my father gifted me a jar of tamarind concentrate and the recipe was even better – I even had time to snap some photos before inhaling it.

Delicious and easy homemade Pad Thai | a recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Simple homemade pad Thai

Serves 3-4

For the sauce:

  • 2 oz. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate (sub peanut butter)
  • squeeze of lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (or more to taste)

For the stir fry:

  • 8 ounces Thai rice stick noodles
  • 1/2 pound chicken breasts, sliced thin (you could add tofu and shrimp as well, just don’t marinate them)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced very thin
  • 3 baby bell peppers, sliced very thin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • cilantro, for serving
  • lime wedges, for serving

Directions:

Fill a large bowl with very hot water and soak the noodles for 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside. They should be pliable but not soft – way less than al dente. Don’t worry, they soften up when you put them in the pan later.

Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and marinate until noodles are done.

Remove chicken, squeezing out sauce, and pat dry with paper towels. You’ll be using the remaining marinade as the sauce so if you’re worried about salmonella, just heat the sauce in a small pan until boiling and set aside.

Heat a wok or large frying pan with 1 tablespoon oil until smoking. Add half the chicken and leave undisturbed for a couple of minutes until nice and browned. Flip chicken pieces and brown on the other side. Set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Add another tablespoon of oil. When pan is hot again, add the onions and baby bell peppers. Cook until softened, about three minutes, scraping up any browned bits as you stir. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the noodles and chicken stock and stir frequently until noodles are softened, about three minutes.

Push noodles to the side of the pan and add the egg. Let it set and stir until firm and browned. Add the green onions, sauce, chicken and sprouts and mix thoroughly. There might be some sticking to the bottom of the pan, but that’s ok, it’ll still be super yummy.

Serve in bowls and top with a good squeeze of lime, some chopped peanuts and fresh cilantro.

Delicious and easy homemade Pad Thai | a recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Creamy Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Here’s a quick, delicious soup that uses pantry staples so you don’t have you leave your house when it’s -3 F outside, which is exactly where I found myself last night. I added red bell pepper as an afterthought and it created an extra tanginess to the soup.

Toss in some chopped baby spinach right at the end for a nutritious bump.

Creamy tomato and red pepper soup | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Creamy Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • One onion, chopped
  • 4 baby red bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • one 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups chopped baby spinach (optional)
  • cream, for serving

Directions:

Coat a dutch oven or soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions and bell peppers and sauté until onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about a minute.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir so everything is well coated. Cook for about a minute. Add the stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and oregano and give it a good stir. Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat to low. The soup should begin to thicken nicely. If it’s too thick, add more stock.

Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom of the pot from burning. Use an immersion blender to make the soup smooth.

Five minutes before serving, add the spinach, if desired.

Spoon into bowls and stir in a dollop of cream just before serving.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Soup

Everyone loves ordering spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer, amirite? Well here’s a soup version that’s every bit as flavorful, probably nearly as fattening and downright delicious.

I checked out from the library “The Keto Reset Instant Pot Cookbook” for funsies and it’s packed with super tasty recipes. I tweaked this one a little to boost the flavor by adding onions and deglazing with white wine.

I’ve never used the sauté function on my Instant Pot, out of fear mostly, but I tried it out and it works great! You could definitely make this recipe on the stove top, but it was pretty darn quick in the pressure cooker.

This creamy soup is packed with flavor, and hey – spinach is good for you so let’s call this a little bit healthy too.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Soup | A delicious recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com adapted from "The Keto Reset Instant Pot Cookbook" by Mark Sisson

Spinach Artichoke Dip Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 oz. chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of liquid
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano for serving

Directions:

Melt butter in a sauté pan (or use the sauté function on your Instant Pot). Add the onions and mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook until all the liquid has come out of the mushrooms, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the white wine and let it bubble away a little for a couple of minutes. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted.

Add contents to the Instant Pot if you haven’t already. Add the artichokes, mustard, sage, thyme, granulated garlic, salt and pepper and stir till everything is well coated.

Pour in the broth and water. Place cover on the Instant Pot. Make sure the release valve is set on “sealing” and pressure cook on any food setting (I used poultry) for 7 minutes.

Let the Instant Pot sit for 5 minutes, then carefully release the steam release valve.

Stir in the thawed and drained spinach and let the soup warm it for a couple of minutes. Stir in the cream.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup slightly, if you’d like. This made it more appetizing because I didn’t have odd chunks of mushroom and spinach in every bite.

Serve in bowls topped with freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Soup | A delicious recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com adapted from "The Keto Reset Instant Pot Cookbook" by Mark Sisson

Ridiculously Easy Crispy Skin Salmon

Whenever my family sits down to a salmon dinner we always have the same debate: do you eat the crispy, burnt salmon skin or does it go to the side of the plate with the stray bones?

Crispy Skin Salmon | a simple method for cooking wild Alaska salmon from Alaskaknitnat.com

My mother is a member of Club No Salmon Skin, which works out in my favor if I’m quick enough to get to her plate before my dad, who is on the same side as me – salmon skin is super delicious when it’s cooked just right.

So I set out to cook a salmon fillet with the sole purpose of making the skin crispy. It was surprisingly easy! I tried a couple of methods and found most success with these directions from Bon Appétit.

And don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of salmon skin, just peel it away and still enjoy this delicious method of cooking wild Alaska salmon.

Crispy Skin Salmon | a simple method for cooking wild Alaska salmon from Alaskaknitnat.com

How to cook wild Alaska salmon with crispy skin

Ingredients:

Crispy Skin Salmon | a simple method for cooking wild Alaska salmon from Alaskaknitnat.com
Beautiful Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. Learn more about this amazing wild Alaska salmon at http://www.bristolbaysockeye.org
  • 1 fillet of Bristol Bay Sockeye salmon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Lemon Dijon sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • pepper

Crispy Skin Salmon | a simple method for cooking wild Alaska salmon from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Remove the pin bones from your wild Alaska salmon fillet. A helpful trick is to place a mixing bowl upside-down on the counter and lay the fillet across it. The curvature allows the bones to stick out slightly and makes it easier for needle nose pliers to grasp them.

Slice the fillet into portions about 6-8 ounces each (should make 2-3). Pat them dry on both sides with paper towels and place them skin side up on a plate. Let sit uncovered in the fridge for one hour.

Liberally coat a cast iron skillet with olive oil. Place the salmon skin side down in the pan and turn on the heat to high.

Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan over medium flame and whisk in the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and mustard. Bring to a light simmer and add pepper to taste. Turn off heat and set aside.

Cook the salmon skin side down for about 7 minutes. There is no exact science to this as some fillets are thicker than others. The flesh should be opaque around the sides and there should be a ring of raw salmon in the middle of the fillet. Turn off the heat and carefully turn the fillets in the pan with a fish spatula. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes from the residual heat of the skillet. This should be enough to cook the salmon through as most of the cooking happened while the skin was getting crispy.

Crispy Skin Salmon | a simple method for cooking wild Alaska salmon from Alaskaknitnat.com

See how lovely and charred your salmon skin is? It’s ok if it’s a little burnt – that’s the good stuff right there.

Serve your salmon fillets with rice and veggies. Top the rice and veggies with the lemon Dijon sauce (but don’t pour it over the salmon. You don’t want the skin to get soggy!)

After munching down the salmon skin, sop bites of the salmon in the sauce on your plate. It’s so good!

Crispy Skin Salmon | a simple method for cooking wild Alaska salmon from Alaskaknitnat.com

Hungarian Sausage & Pepper Stew

I love when my friend Mat takes over my kitchen and invents dishes. It’s like I get a night off from thinking about dinner and I play sous chef: dicing veggies, finding him utensils or even just lazing on the couch while he does all the work.

Mat has been living the Keto lifestyle for five years so I know whatever he concocts will not only be delicious but also nutritious (or sometimes it’s just cheese; let’s face it, cheese is good.)

Today was rainy and chilly – a perfect evening for a warming stew. We raided my fridge and made the most of a Costco rotisserie chicken.

What Mat came up with was just what we needed on a night like this.

Hearty Hungarian Stew | A Perfect Fall Meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

Sausage, Pepper and Paprika Stew

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 5-7 baby bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • A couple of dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound kielbasa, sliced
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cups sour cream
  • rice for serving (if Keto isn’t an issue)

Hearty Hungarian Stew | A Perfect Fall Meal from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high flame. Add the onions, celery and carrots. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook another few minutes.

Add the paprika, tomato paste, bay leaf, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, and kielbasa. Cover, bring to a boil and turn down heat to remain at a simmer. Add pepper to taste.

Simmer for 30 minutes. Toss in the chicken and simmer another 10 minutes. Stir in the sour cream.

Serve over rice and top with a dollop of sour cream.

Hearty Hungarian Stew | A Perfect Fall Meal from Alaskaknitnat.com